April 11, 2010

What Voter Data Are Democrats Seeing?

Cook Political Report had a new analysis out on Friday about the seat of Democrat Bart Stupak in Michigan. With the announced retirement of Rep. Stupak, Cook has moved the district from Safe Democrat to a Toss Up status.  If that's the case there are only three possible scenarios that caused Stupak to move (i) he really wanted to retire (ii) Cook's previous rating of Safe Democrat was not up to date - the safety of the seat had already slipped or (iii) Stupak saw more or more specific data than Cook did and the numbers looked bad.  The latter two points are somewhat inter-related, and the former point, while in line with the official Stupak story doesn't quite cover the whole story either.

Rep. Stupak HAD to have known that by reversing his position at the 11th hour he would get a lot of voter backlash.  He made the decision and then wasn't prepared to face the heat?  That is especially odd after supposedly having stood up for his principles previously.  If he had his arm twisted on the vote then his principles weren't very sound to begin with.  Could he have been scared by Republican threats to find out about the deals vote switchers made, and make them public?  Maybe.  But that doesn't make the retirement the only out.  There's a number of intermediate steps to that outing - the GOP needed to find out, they needed to use it successfully to win the election against Stupak and then they could still possibly be powerless to stop the position appointments, if that's what the deal was.

For conservatives, there's a side lesson to be learned here - Stupak was the face of a group of supposed dissenters.  He is not the only one who switched his vote, despite being the most visible.  Rep. Stupak could have been the sacrificial pawn in this game.  If he has been sacrificed it could have been twice - once to get the legislation passed, and secondly to keep other Democrats out of the anger limelight.  But if that was the case, why not keep him in the limelight, sacrifice the seat, and don't let conservatives turn their focus, at least partly, elsewhere?  It doesn't add up to me.

It could be political, but one still has to wonder what voter data Democrats are seeing.  It seems that analysts like Cook may not have access to the same full picture as Representatives themselves.  Just maybe this could turn into an electoral bloodbath.

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